Exodus 33:5
For the LORD had said to Moses, Say to the children of Israel, You are a stiff necked people: I will come up into the middle of you in a moment, and consume you: therefore now put off your ornaments from you, that I may know what to do to you.
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(5)For the Lord had said unto Moses.—Rather, And the Lord said unto Moses. The message did not precede the repentance of the people, but followed it.

I will come up into the midst of thee in a moment, and consume thee.—Rather, were I to go up in the midst of thee, even for a moment (a brief space), I should consume thee. The people learnt by this the reason of God’s proposed withdrawal. It was in mercy, that they might not be consumed, as there was danger of their being unless they repented and turned to God.

Put off thy ornaments.—Rather, leave off thy ornaments, i.e., put them aside altogether; show thy penitence by giving up the use of them; then shall I know what to do with thee; then shall I be able to deal with thee in a way which otherwise were impossible.

Exodus 33:5. I will come up in the midst of thee — In anger, not in favour. This threatening hath a condition implied, except thou repent, as the next words plainly show. That I may know what to do unto thee — That I may either inflict my judgments or suspend them, as thou art penitent or impenitent.33:1-6 Those whom God pardons, must be made to know what their sin deserved. Let them go forward as they are; this was very expressive of God's displeasure. Though he promises to make good his covenant with Abraham, in giving them Canaan, yet he denies them the tokens of his presence they had been blessed with. The people mourned for their sin. Of all the bitter fruits and consequences of sin, true penitents most lament, and dread most, God's departure from them. Canaan itself would be no pleasant land without the Lord's presence. Those who parted with ornaments to maintain sin, could do no less than lay aside ornaments, in token of sorrow and shame for it.I will come up ... - Better; If I were to go up for one moment in the midst of thee, I should consume thee.

That I may know ... - By that sign of their repentance Yahweh would decide in what way they were to be punished.

5. put off thy ornaments—In seasons of mourning, it is customary with Eastern people to lay aside all gewgaws and divest themselves of their jewels, their gold, and every thing rich and splendid in their dress. This token of their sorrow the Lord required of His offending people.

that I may know what to do unto thee—The language is accommodated to the feeble apprehensions of men. God judges the state of the heart by the tenor of the conduct. In the case of the Israelites, He cherished a design of mercy; and the moment He discerned the first symptoms of contrition, by their stripping off their ornaments, as penitents conscious of their error and sincerely sorrowful, this fact added its weight to the fervency of Moses' prayers, and gave them prevalence with God in behalf of the people.

I will come up into the midst of thee, to wit, in anger; not in favour, Exodus 33:3, where the words are the same, but the sense differing,

and consume thee.

Object. But God had promised he would not do so, Exodus 33:3.

Answ. That was signified to Moses, not to the people, to whom the threatening was most proper and profitable; and this threatening hath a condition implied, to wit, except they repent, as the next words plainly show.

That I may know what to do unto thee; that I may either inflict my judgments, or suspend them, as thou art penitent or impenitent. For the Lord had said to Moses,.... At the same time he had told it to the people:

say unto the children of Israel: Menachem, as quoted by Ainsworth, observes, that this is said in a way of mercy; for since their idolatry he had only called them the people of Moses, and the people, but now calls them by their beloved name, the children of Israel; but whether this was any hint of mercy and favour, is not very apparent by what follows:

ye are a stiffnecked people; obstinate and untractable; see Gill on Exodus 32:9,

I will come up into the midst of thee in a moment, and consume thee; before he threatens them that he would not go up in the midst of them, that is, in a way of grace and mercy, to guide, protect, and defend them himself; and now that he would come up in the midst of them, but in a different manner, in a way of wrath, and to take vengeance on them for their sins; and the meaning is, either that should he do so but one moment it would be all over with them, or they would be utterly consumed; or this is threatened on condition, provided they did not repent of their sins, and humble themselves:

therefore now put off thy ornaments from thee; not their armour, as some, nor the clothes they wore at the festival for the golden calf, for this was long after that; but the clothes they usually wore, the best they had, with all their decorations and ornaments, and put on mournful habits as an outward token of their repentance and mourning for their sins, if they had any real concern: this shows that these words must have been said before; since the people on hearing the evil tidings had clothed themselves in a mournful habit, and did not put on their ornaments, Exodus 33:4,

that I may know what to do unto thee; which does not suppose ignorance or irresolution in God, but is said after the manner of men, that he should deal with them in proportion to their conduct and behaviour, and as that should outwardly appear.

For the LORD had said unto Moses, Say unto the children of Israel, Ye are a stiffnecked people: I will come up into the midst of thee in a moment, and consume thee: therefore now put off thy ornaments from thee, that I may know {b} what to do unto thee.

(b) That I may either show mercy if you repent, or else punish your rebellion.

5. The people are here told to do what they have already done (v. 4b), a clear proof that two narratives have been combined. In v. 4 the removal of the ornaments is a spontaneous token of grief; in v. 5 it is done at Jehovah’s command. It is true, LXX. omit v. 4b: but the omission is open to the suspicion of having been made to avoid the awkward anticipation of v. 5b.

Ye are, &c.] The compiler (so Di.) emphasizes afresh (see v. 3) Israel’s stiffneckedness. The entire context of the words assigned to E has naturally not been preserved.

go up in the midst of thee] viz. towards Canaan (as v. 3).

what to do unto thee] i.e. how o deal with thee.Verse 5. ? For the Lord had said unto Moses, etc. Rather, "And the Lord said unto M." (so most recent commentators, as Keil, Kalisch, etc.) The message was sent to the people after their repentance, and in reply to it. It was not, however, as our version makes it, a threat of destruction, but only a repetition of the statement made in ver. 2, that, if God went up with them, the probable result would be their destruction. Translate - "Ye are a stiff-necked people; were I for one moment to go up in the midst of thee, I should destroy thee," Put off thy ornaments. The command seems strange, when we had just been told that "no man did put on him his ornaments" (ver 4) but the word translated put off probably means "lay aside altogether." The intention was to make their continued disuse of the ornaments a test of their penitence. After Moses had thus avenged the honour of the Lord upon the sinful nation, he returned the next day to Jehovah as a mediator, who is not a mediator of one (Galatians 3:20), that by the force of his intercession he might turn the divine wrath, which threatened destruction, into sparing grace and compassion, and that he might expiate the sin of the nation. He had received no assurance of mercy in reply to his first entreaty (Exodus 32:11-13). He therefore announced his intention to the people in these words: "Peradventure I can make an atonement for your sin." But to the Lord he said (Exodus 32:31, Exodus 32:32), "The sin of this people is a great sin; they have made themselves a god of gold," in opposition to the clear commandment in Exodus 20:23 : "and now, if Thou wilt forgive their sin, and if not, blot me out of the book that Thou hast written." The book which Jehovah has written is the book of life, or of the living (Psalm 69:29; Daniel 12:1). This expression is founded upon the custom of writing the names of the burgesses of a town or country in a burgess-list, whereby they are recognised as natives of the country, or citizens of the city, and all the privileges of citizenship are secured to them. The book of life contains the list of the righteous (Psalm 69:29), and ensures to those whose names are written there, life before God, first in the earthly kingdom of God, and then eternal life also, according to the knowledge of salvation, which keeps pace with the progress of divine revelation, e.g., in the New Testament, where the heirs of eternal life are found written in the book of life (Philippians 4:3; Revelation 3:5; Revelation 13:8, etc.), - an advance for which the way was already prepared by Isaiah 4:3 and Daniel 12:1. To blot out of Jehovah's book, therefore, is to cut off from fellowship with the living God, or from the kingdom of those who live before God, and to deliver over to death. As a true mediator of his people, Moses was ready to stake his own life for the deliverance of the nation, and not to live before God himself, if Jehovah did not forgive the people their sin. These words of Moses were the strongest expression of devoted, self-sacrificing love. And they were just as deep and true as the wish expressed by the Apostle Paul in Romans 9:3, that he might be accursed from Christ for the sake of his brethren according to the flesh. Bengel compares this wish of the apostle to the prayer of Moses, and says with regard to this unbounded fulness of love, "It is not easy to estimate the measure of love in a Moses and a Paul; for the narrow boundary of our reasoning powers does not comprehend it, as the little child is unable to comprehend the courage of warlike heroes" (Eng. Tr.). The infinite love of God is unable to withstand the importunity of such love. God, who is holy love, cannot sacrifice the righteous and good for the unrighteous and guilty, nor can He refuse the mediatorial intercession of His faithful servant, so long as the sinful nation has not filled up the measure of its guilt, in which case even the intercession of a Moses and a Samuel would not be able to avert the judgment (Jeremiah 15:1, cf. Ezekiel 14:16). Hence, although Jehovah puts back the wish and prayer of Moses with the words, "Whoever (אשׁר מי, both here and in 2 Samuel 20:11, is more emphatic than either one or the other alone) has sinned, him will I blot out of My book," He yields to the entreaty that He will ensure to Moses the continuance of the nation under His guidance, and under the protection of His angel, which shall go before it (see at Exodus 33:2-3), and defer the punishment of their sin until the day of His visitation.
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